Whatever the Mets do in the NL wild card game on Wednesday night, Curtis Granderson will be in the center of it.
Granderson started the season as the Mets rightfielder and leadoff man. On Wednesday — and probably for as long as the Mets last in the postseason — he will be the team’s centerfielder and cleanup man.
It’s what makes Granderson special to manager Terry Collins. When Yoenis Cespedes couldn’t play center anymore because of his troublesome groin, when Juan Lagares had to have thumb surgery, when Alejandro De Aza and Michael Conforto didn’t grab hold of the job, it was Granderson who started in center in the most important games of the season.
At age 35, Granderson doesn’t have the wheels for the position anymore. But he did just fine out there and had his best month-plus at the plate in September/October, batting .302 with eight HRs and 21 RBIs as the Mets stormed to the first wild-card spot.
Overall, Granderson hit .237 with 30 HRs and 57 RBIs.
“You look up and the guy’s got 30 homers,” Collins said. “This guy hits home runs. The best thing about Curtis is that he never lets anything bother him. You know what? I ask him to lead off, he leads off. You ask him to hit fourth, he hits fourth. You ask him to hit second, he hits second. There is never a discussion, never an argument.”
Granderson started 32 games in center. In a nod to his legs, he only finished 14 of them at the position.
“I listen to my body,” Granderson said. “Working with out training staff. Getting stretched out. Hot, cold tub, making sure I stay hydrated. All different things.”
Said Collins: “When I put him in centerfield, I knew he didn’t particularly care to play centerfield anymore. He had gotten comfortable in rightfield. But he understands for the betterment of the team he needs to play centerfield. I think he’s gone out and done very, very well. I think he’s handled it great. He’s played there before. He’s got a feel for it. He’s made some big plays for us.
“He’s what you’ve got to have if you’re going to win. You’ve got to have guys that, ‘Hey, look, all I want to do is help the team.’ And Curtis Granderson is that guy. He’s the prototypical pro that comes to the ballpark every day and does what he’s supposed to do to help you win. When you lead by example like that, there are a lot of guys who fall into line because he’s a star and it makes a big difference for us. He helps the manager immensely.”